Case Study: Kupu A’e Leadership Development

3/22/2016 12:00 AM ,

Our mission:

Kupu A’e Leadership Development is a lead partner enlisting Leadership Kauaʻi and Inspire Facilitation Services to work with our Department of Education, Kauaʻi Area Complex, to expand leadership development within our high schools on the island of Kauaʻi. Collectively we have a mission to engage and facilitate the development of leadership behaviors in our future leaders.

Our goals:

Our goal is the expansion and outreach of leadership development services beyond our annual program of 20 students to include every high school student on Kauaʻi, approximately 3,200 students, when all programs are operating at full capacity. Our objective is to build leadership capacity on our island, influence island-wide positive systemic change, and honor the fundamental principal that everyone is a leader. The partnership of Leadership Kauaʻi, Kupu A’e, and Inspire Facilitation Services focuses on expanding leadership behaviors into the classroom for high school students.

Our challenges:

In order to reach as many youth on our island as possible, our approach to engage students through an in-school program has been a challenge to implement. The biggest challenge is and continues to be gaining the commitment of principals, counselors, and teachers to the program so that it becomes fully integrated and sustainable within each school. Schools are faced with meeting high standards and student performance test scores on an annual basis, so the addition of character development and enrichment opportunities such as our program is a paradigm shift. All stakeholders must find value in leadership development as an avenue for student success and be willing to commit the time to co-create and allow outside community partners into the classroom on a consistent basis. With our Kupu A’e Leadership Development Program, our teacher facilitator training component has been beneficial in gaining the commitment required to be successful. In addition, having an on-campus presence with our facilitators and partners has made a difference in helping us build relationships and get buy-in for the program. We have also included teachers and counselors in various components of the curriculum—experiential activities and the examples of leadership lessons we use—which has created the additional benefit of strengthening student-teacher relations. After just four years of working in our current group of high schools, we have seen a significant increase in positive behaviors that have had a corresponding positive impact on the learning culture.

Why we chose the Student LPI:

We have been utilizing The Leadership Challenge® for our annual professional leadership program since 2004 and found success with the LPI® (Leadership Practices Inventory®) metric as a tool to measure leadership behaviors. At the inception of our student program in 2007, we made a strong commitment to delivering The Leadership Challenge, The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®, and the Student Leadership Practices Inventory®. We continue to use The Student Leadership Challenge book and a variety of the activities and research contained in The Leadership Challenge Workshop materials as core components of our curriculum. We believe there is a strong correlation and relevancy between The Leadership Challenge, the Small Learning Community Model, and Career Academies that are the current structural focus in our high schools.

How our program works:

Within each high school, we have established a four-year leadership program integrated into the core subjects of English and Social Studies. At each grade level, the Leadership Development program provides between four and eight leadership lessons per month, depending on which of The Five Practices are being facilitated, and engages all students within each grade. Each of our leadership partners focuses in on a grade level and Kupu A’e oversees the entire program as well as training for teachers. After two years with each grade, teachers begin to integrate and use the leadership development program within their curriculum. Integration has been most successful in creating positive student-to-student and student-to-teacher relations, providing clarity in career explorations, assisting in the matching of community mentors, and connecting senior projects and community stewardship projects with The Five Practices. In addition, schools have witnessed a culture shift toward acceptance of others, a feeling of cohesiveness of school, and increased positive attitudes. View the program overview and framework.

Our results:

Based on school data as well as student, teacher, and parent feedback, we believe that our partnership with our local high school had an effect on developing a positive culture and supported a healthy learning environment where students felt engaged in their own future. Our school data showed a decrease in school absenteeism, a decrease in referrals, a decrease in failing grades, and an increase in retention rates. In addition, an expansion of programs and projects flourished with the support of our ongoing efforts over the last four years. These new programs included senior project mentoring and internships, development of career academies, and a peer-led leadership program initiated by students who serve as facilitators to underclassmen.

Our future:

We have increased our outreach from 20 to approximately 2,000 students annually. We provide our leadership development program once a week in our core classes of English and Social Studies, reaching every high school student in all grade levels at three public high schools, one private school, and one charter school. Our goal is to be in every high school on Kauaʻi, to reach all 3,200 students, within five years.


Mason Chock, President of Kupu Aʻe Leadership Development, is a personal coach, leadership development consultant, keynote speaker, a Certified Facilitator of The Student Leadership Challenge, and currently a member of the Kauaʻi County Council. A cofounding member and former Executive Director of Leadership Kauaʻi, he has worked in education and public service for 17 years, coordinating and moderating numerous trainings by facilitating strategic planning processes and delivering customized leadership development programs. He is president of Kauaʻi Team Challenge Inc., an outdoor experiential education company on Kauaʻi, specializing in cultural placed based learning, adventure based therapy, team building, and leadership development. He can be reached at mason@leadershipkauai.org.

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